To the People of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, and to the ends of the earth,  Fulfilling our charge to “To guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim … the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and … to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically” (BOD, 2016, ¶ 414.3), the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction will offer messages of faith each week of Lent, with the prayer that God will strengthen the Church for its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Read: Isaiah 58:5-12

“You shall call, and the Lord will answer.”

People of faith are in a powerful partnership with God. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God will have our back if we are bold to intervene where people suffer.

Isaiah recognized that the world needs strong correction and that people are often weak in the face of the challenge. He described that in the face of trouble, the people bow down and lie in mourning, rather than standing up and resisting what’s wrong. Isaiah chides them and calls them forth, asking, is not the fast I choose to loose the bonds of injustice … to let the oppressed go free?

The great teachers and leaders of the Bible model spiritual practices of prayer and fasting and they also lead us into action: share your bread, bring the homeless into your house, cover the naked! If you do these things, then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up, you shall cry for help and the Lord will say, Here I am. Isaiah describes a partnership between God and the people. God will do God’s part if we do ours. In times of injustice, our part is to offer mercy to people who are suffering, and to cry out for relief from oppression.

Mercy leads to justice. If we are kind, generous, and compassionate, sharing what we have, tending the needs of those around us, then God will hear our prayers, make our bones strong and water our parched places.

Mercy leads churches near Universities to prepare to provide safe space for students whose presence in this country may be threatened by new travel bans and immigration enforcement. Mercy leads Christian women to wear head scarves in solidarity with Muslim women who are persecuted for doing so. Mercy leads Japanese Americans to remember their internment during World War II and to support Muslims, who are targeted with persecution and exclusion.

If you feel defeated at this time in our nation’s history, get up! ACT YOUR FAITH! Help somebody.  Listen to people you don’t agree with. Meet a Muslim or a Jew or an undocumented immigrant. Wear a head scarf. If you enter the pain of others, and cry out to God for help, God will answer and you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.       

Prayer: God, show us our neighbors who live in fear: children whose water is poison; people whose jobs have moved oversees, whose health care is in jeopardy; young people exploited as sex slaves, undocumented immigrant neighbors. Make our bones strong to stand for justice until your Kingdom comes. Amen

– Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, Greater Northwest Area